Oh, the representation question.
I’ve talked about the Other and its role in horror already, so I don’t want to go into a full discourse again, other than to say that it is possible for a minority to be a villain in a horror piece and still come out looking okay.
When you look at a show like American Horror Story: Coven, it’s an obviously careful balance between suggesting that the root of the problem is the witchcraft, and suggesting that maybe the witchcraft is not the root of the problem at all-that people are nasty, period, and what they do is pretty universal regardless of expression. The thing with a show like Coven is that people are doing terrible things left and right. None of them are free of responsibility. The infamous bus scene, while being heavy handed and an obvious rash decision, is understandable because of what happened in the scene prior. Call it a balancing, call it cosmic justice, call it a blood reckoning…call it nothing at all, it makes sense because of what had just played out.
In other words, these are witches who are dealing with a universe that the producers have created wherein no one’s not going to have mud on their face once or twice. It’s a nasty world out there, and the motives are pretty apparent because of that. Therefore, whatever representation plays out is pretty understandable-and has been thoroughly researched. It’s actually pretty evenly handled, if not exactly Glenda the Good Witch.
But then you get to a show like Salem. Part of my issue with the show is that it’s just not a good show. In fact, it’s pretty bad. Not painfully bad but I can skip the rest of the show and not really care. I’ve said this in relation to the whole assault fiasco with Game of Thrones this season, but I don’t need every show to be feminist in order to be enjoyable, if the plot elements are actually driving the plot. Similarly, I don’t need every representation of everyone ever to be nice and supportive if it’s actually accomplishing something.
Let’s face facts, it doesn’t matter what group you’re talking about, there’s bad people in that group. Whether people like it or not, not everything that happens is nice and it’s all outsiders that don’t understand.
Here’s where Salem falls where Coven succeeded-these are just terrible people. The whole lot of them. There’s a lot of ‘throw stuff on the fall and see what sticks’. Where Coven had fully developed motives (i.e. the bus scene), even if we don’t understand the logic, there is an underlying one running the show-where Coven had that strength, Salem is just a free for all of not nice people doing not nice things because they could.
And that’s where the show commits the ultimate sin for me-it’s not even that you’re taking a group that actually exists, suggesting that they do horrible (and frankly ridiculous things, if you think a person is actually capable of doing these things, that’s a deeper issue than suggesting that they do them in the first place-snakes in the belly, really?) things-it’s that they’re so nasty that frankly I can’t care.
Salem is full of nothing but bullies with snakes. And I can’t bring myself to care.